Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ingredient of the Day: Garlic! Plus Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic Recipe

Shallots are for babies; Onions are for men; Garlic is for heroes. – Unknown

Photo: havankevin, Flickr ccl
Abridged, from Wikipedia:
Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion family Alliaceae. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo. Garlic has been used throughout history for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

The cloves are used for consumption (raw or cooked), or for medicinal purposes, and have a characteristic pungent, spicy flavor that mellows and sweetens considerably with cooking.The leaves, and flowers (bulbils) on the head (spathe) are also edible, and being milder in flavor than the bulbs, they are most often consumed while immature and still tender. Additionally, the immature flower stalks (scapes) of the hardneck and elephant types are sometimes marketed for uses similar to asparagus in stir-fries. 

Garlic is soon ready to harvest when the
long "scapes" appear. Photo: Chiot's Run
Garlic is easy to grow and can be grown year-round in mild climates. In cold climates, cloves are planted in the ground in the fall, about six weeks before the soil freezes and harvested in late spring. Garlic plants are usually very hardy, and are not attacked by many pests or diseases. Garlic plants are said to repel rabbits and moles.

Garlic plants can be grown close together, leaving enough room for the bulbs to mature, and are easily grown in containers of sufficient depth. When selecting garlic for planting, it is important to pick large heads to separate cloves from. Large cloves will also improve head size, along with proper spacing in the planting bed. Garlic plants prefer to grow in a soil with a high organic material content, but it is capable of growing in a wide range of soil conditions and pH levels.

There are different types or subspecies of garlic, most notably hard neck garlic and soft neck garlic. The latitude where the garlic is grown affects the choice of type as garlic can be day-length sensitive. Hard neck garlic is generally grown in cooler climates; soft neck garlic is generally grown closer to the equator.


If you didn’t know, the irrational fear of garlic is “alliumphobia.” It is characterized by anxiety, fear and the feeling of heart palpitations. It may extend further to other plants that have pungent odors such as onions, leeks, chives, and shallots. It apparently can be quite debilitating.

If you have little fear of garlic, how about this recipe to ramp it up a bit? Yes, it's 40 cloves, but the slow roasting renders them mellow, deep and delicious. This recipe is a winner all around. The first time I heard of it was when I was in college and I was shopping in the local hippie/granola/health food store. (It was!) Someone in line ahead was describing this dish they were served with 'a ton of garlic." From there, to me, it entered mythology.

Try it to discover what you've been missing. And remember, if everyone's eating garlic, no one's bothered by the smell!

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
Prep: 30 min  |  Cook: 60 min  |  Servings: 4-5 people

Photo: Matt Knoth, Flickr ccl (He didn't peel his garlic...)
40 cloves of garlic, peeled*
8-10 chicken thighs, skin on
salt, to taste
cracked black pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup brandy or cognac
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tbsp fresh thyme
2 1/2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup whipping (32%) cream

* I’ve cross referenced several recipes and have discovered a commonality. Peeling 40 cloves of garlic is a lot of work. There is a trick. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Blanch the 40 cloves for about 1 minute. Drain, and the skins should slip right off. There’s half the work done for this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Photo: arsheffield,
Flickr ccl
Next, season the chicken pieces liberally with freshly cracked pepper, and some salt. Bring the oil to medium high heat in a skillet and brown the chicken on all sides. Do in two batches if necessary. Place in an oven proof baking dish. Remove all but 1/4 cup of the oil from the pan.

Add the garlic to the pan. Allow to simmer for a few minutes until the garlic begins to become very fragrant. Add the thyme, brandy and white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping off any fond (the brown bits) from the bottom. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Cover the chicken with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 60 minutes. 

Remove the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm. Combine some of the pan juices (1/4 to 1/2 cup) with the flour and cream in a separate bowl. Whisk to remove any lumps. Reintroduce the thickener to the pan and whisk. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour over chicken pieces and serve.

For a complete meal, serve with couscous, which has been fluffed with butter and seasoned with lemon pepper, and a vegetable of your choice.


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